The top ten GOP presidential hopefuls will once again go head-to-head Wednesday at the third Republican primary debate, this time at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Host network CNBC said the event would be a dialogue on “jobs, taxes, the deficit and the health of our national economy,” issues that candidates have often mentioned on the stump.
Here’s what you need to know about each candidate's economic plans before tonight's debate at 8 p.m. Eastern:
Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio may not have much in common -- but their tax plans sure do. Each of them wants to keep a progressive income tax, but reduce the number of tax brackets.
Not all candidates are in favor of keeping America’s graduated tax system, even in light of conservative reform. At the last GOP debate, Ben Carson said America’s graduated income tax was equivalent to “socialism.” Ted Cruz and Rand Paul said they’re in favor of a flat tax. Carson, who bases his tax plan on the biblical concept of tithing, is in favor of 10-15 percent flat tax. Paul thinks it should be 14.5 percent. Cruz hasn’t given specifics.
Almost all of the candidates can agree on a few things, though. Each of them wants to lower corporate taxes, citing America’s economic competition abroad. Bush, Kasich and Rubio want to take that even further, making it legal for companies to immediately deduct expenses for capital equipment, rather than making companies do it over the course of a few years, a reform they say will increase productivity. And when it comes to tax deductions for individuals, most of the candidates only want to keep deductions for charitable giving and interest on home mortgages.
Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Ben Carson have all said they’d like to abolish the International Revenue Service [IRS] if they become president. On his website, Paul calls the IRS a “rogue agency,” and says the organization targets “anyone who might be adversarial to President Obama’s policies.” Carson said he hopes to “end the IRS as we know it,” and Cruz mentioned “abolishing the IRS” in the same speech in which he announced his candidacy.
The Tax Code
There is one thing all of the Republican candidates agree on: the American tax code is too long and complicated. Many of them have cited the fact that the tax code is over 70,000 pages long, proof that it desperately needs reform. Carson says on his website that he wants to make the code simple enough for someone to be able to complete their taxes in “less than 15 minutes.” Bush says he wants to simplify the code by getting rid of its “convoluted, lobbyist-created loopholes.” And Trump proposes that anyone who qualifies for his plan’s lowest income bracket would only have to send in a single sheet of paper to the IRS, one that says “I win.” Paul went the extra mile to cut the tax code with a chainsaw.
Balancing the Budget
Carson, Cruz and Kasich have each proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would force Congress to balance the federal budget each year. Kasich has made the issue a major focus of his economic plan, citing his success balancing the budget in Ohio. He’s said that he would be just as successful with the federal budget, promising to balance it in eight years.
Medicare and Social Security
When it comes to programs like Social Security and Medicare, most of the candidates are in favor of gradual reforms, but have also promised to keep the system the way it is for current seniors. Both Bush and Paul support a gradual increase in the retirement age for Social Security. In a plan released Tuesday, Bush said he hopes to increase the retirement age one month each year starting in 2020. Both Bush and Christie are also in favor of reducing Social Security payouts to the wealthiest Americans. Christie is hoping to phase out Social Security payments for retirees earning $200,000 a year.
Kasich has often come under fire for his support of Medicare; he expanded coverage for low-income Ohioans as governor. Some of the GOP field wants to move toward privatizing Medicare, instead of expanding it, and some of the candidates aren't fans of the program at all. Carson faced criticism this week after he told Politico he'd like to do away with Medicare. He later said he was misunderstood, claiming he meant that once there was a private option, Medicare wouldn't be necessary.